Monday, April 16, 2018

The River Before

The first time I saw him, he was naked and lying on the banks of the river. I was on a walk with several friends when we spotted him and rushed over. As we ran, I knew he was dead and I wasn't a friend of Death. By the time we were a foot away from him, the man slowly got up and stared at us with eyes that I'd never seen before. They were blue and yet with a hint of mud to them. His pale skin held a slight twinge of blue that swirled around like waves. We stopped in our tracks as he raised a hand to us and smiled. His short black hair was still wet as it stuck out in all directions from his head. He then saw my face and walked towards me. I felt my heart beating rapidly as he came towards me and my so called friends moved away to give him room. He asked me my name and I told him with a shaky voice.
"No," he said, "what is the name that the River gave you?" I told him that I had no other name, to which he reached out to touch my hand. I did not flinch as his warm watery hand made contact with my suddenly dry skin. His eyes studied me and soon, I felt a warm wash flow through me. One of my friends asked him if he was alright, to which he replied that he had come from the River Before. He looked at my friends with a calm gaze then returned his focus on me. The blue muddy eyes welcomed me into his soul. Thankfully, my friends were all dreamers - one asked if the River Before was a beautiful place. He, still focused on me, traced a line down my arm as he said that the River Before is too blue to behold - a place for his kind to drink and rest. I then asked for his name. "Silt," he said with a grin. Another friend asked if he wanted to come with us for clothes and shelter. Just then, others came running up to our group and Silt in amazement. A man yelled that Silt had no business being naked around here and that if he came quietly, they would "take care" of him. I stood in front of him and said that he was coming home with us. I could feel Silt's breath on my neck and knew that my choice was a sound one. The other people looked at us with a mixture of disgust, fear, and a little wonder as they slowly walked away. Silt came with us.
He stayed with me and taught me the ways of the River Before. His body could change colours on a whim - clear blue like his home, muddy as the food he ate, and clear like the dreams he spoke of. His eyes showed the equal of blue and brown when he laughed with me. When he touched me as a man touches a woman and his lips brushed against mine, I saw the River Before and his people. His body smelled of pure rain water mingled with freshly turned earth. One day, after so many others passed, Silt asked if I wanted to go home with him. I asked if this meant that I would die, to which he laughed and said no. We returned to the bank where we first found him and he slowly removed my clothes. I then removed his and, after sharing a deep kiss, we walked into the River. As the cold waters covered my body inch by inch, I began to feel fear until Silt squeezed my hand and said to not be afraid. I nodded as the river covered my head and I gasped for breath, yet Silt continued to hold my hand as we slowly walked through the muddy water. I saw nothing, nothing . . . until I saw the bluest blue, clear and welcoming. Warm and happy. I saw others like him swimming along, all like him. All dreamt from the River Before. When they saw us, they waved and welcomed us home.

My name is Tide. I am of the River Before.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

THOSE People

(Cafe Eclectic - Harbor Town Memphis)

I see them everywhere. THOSE people. They seem to meet up in packs, converse about whose house they'll be visiting later that day, and who will bring what craft beer. I watch them from behind my curtain of shyness, desperate to be a part of their world. They see more, experience more, and dress in ways I could never imagine. They wear clothes that make them look as though they just woke up from a perfect night in which nothing fell out of place. Black framed glasses with a careless attitude make me wonder if they wear them just as an accessory rather than for vision problems. I wanted in, I kept telling myself. I wanted into their world and their jokes that seemed to be private. I wanted to shop with them at the local grocery store, searching for the best apples. I wanted them to help me with my wardrobe and tell me how to put on my hemp lip gloss properly. I wanted to be invited to their houses to talk about my latest read over wine and cheese whose name I couldn't pronounce. I wanted to be like them and hate them within the same breath. And then, one day, one of them noticed the book I was reading and asked me if I liked it so far. I looked up from my book and noticed the face - clean and free of makeup, female sensitive with a hint of something earthy, short black hair, clothes that were made for her. I smiled and said yes and asked if she'd ever read it, to which she sat down next to me and told me (with a white teeth smile that proved she drank a lot of coffee) that her group had JUST finished reading it. Can you imagine the odds, I said with a smile. She continued her smile then asked if I was doing anything later - her friends were going over to Tom, Steve, Joan, Sarah's house for wine and watching French films. Book closed, grin even wider. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Ink Stained Nothing

(from the Woodruff Fontaine House in Memphis, TN)

My words, my blood. My thoughts, shared on paper for the world to see and possibly ridicule. I see people using their words so carelessly, as though they wanted to give away their power. Not I. I refuse to give anyone anything that I treasure. Each thought comes from my mind like a soft whisper, a delicate knife slicing through the air, or a single drop of water to land in a glass. You see my words and you KNOW. I want them to be near me, forever. And yet. . . my hands tremble when I hold my pen. My eyes dart here and there, searching for something that fell out without warning. My heart beats rapidly as I read line by line on the too white paper. My words, my prison. I want them to feed me so that I never know hunger again. I close my eyes and feel . . . .

The stain grows above me on my ceiling. Black and viscous. Muted whispers of nothing sensible. I look up and see my words there. They float and fly towards the over growing mass above my head. Are they going to kill me? Will they take mercy on me, their Creator? The whispers grow louder. I want to see them. Each little line. One stroke of my pen becomes my noose. They suddenly slide down my walls, changing the white to a heartless black. I sit at my desk in the middle of the room. No windows, no fear. They come towards me as children returning to their parents after a long day of playing. Here we come, they whisper. Open your mouth, dear. Open wide. I do what they want. Soft. Slow. Pulsing. Fear. Tremble. Regret. Love. Anguish. Terror. Please, please, please. Let us return. Let us in. In. In.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Laina - a fragment

(my grandmother's hands, yet I think Laina's hands would look just like hers)

I have seen several lifetimes and still I am amazed at how limited humanity appears to be. So much beyond the realms of Maybe and Hopefully. My hands, wrinkled and brown from many suns kissing them, can still serve tea faster than the wood elves in the next town! I want to share my life with you - what I did and still do, whom I've seen, whom I've slept with (wink), and which areas I'm banned from because I disobeyed their rules. A Tea Traveler, once set out into the worlds, is loyal to only one set of laws - the laws that bind a Tea Traveler to what they do for the sake of Tea. When I took the oath, I was a mere 20 years old and rebellious. Still am I guess but I digress. I wanted to leave Birmingham for good when I stumbled upon the town of Mabon during spring break. Yes . . . the way you looked at me when I said that name. You know of it, don't you? When I found it, I couldn't believe my eyes. All of the things I'd hoped and wished for were real. When I crossed the Veil to the Otherworld, I held my first conversation with a strange man who wore loose blue clothing, claimed he was from the Land of Sleep, and served me the best cup of tea while telling me a story about a desert dryad. When I finished my cup, I thanked them then asked where I could get more of that tea (it's called Blue Wave and it's now one of the Forgotten Teas), he told me something better - visit the Tea Temple and study to become a Tea Traveler. The rest, as the Tea Mystics never say, is history. Of course, I'm only giving you a sample of my life. If you want more, then pull up a chair, chew on those Soft Shoulder tea leaves, and let's begin . . . . 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Wasure - a fragment

The name I chose was Wasure - forgotten. Just like the teas I study, I am forgotten by my past.

People see me and whisper to their friends. Is she? Is that the one who - ? I catch their glances at me and smile from behind my black fan. They nod quickly then rush off to their destination, while I remain in the Temple. They want to see Me as I truly am, want all of those lingering questions answered. I refuse to show yet I do tell them - yes, I am of both. I studied the history of the Forgotten Teas and was "blessed" afterward. No, it is not a curse. Far from it. People from all over come to the Temple to pay homage to our work, enjoy our carefully blended teas, and listen to our stories or our adventures. And, as always, they finish their day at the Temple with a visit to my area. They come to hear my stories and to peer carefully at my face and my handmade red silk kimono. I always have a smile for them, for is that not the Way of the Temple? One night, as I prepared for dinner with the rest of the Mystics, my teacher pulled me to the side and placed a hand on my forehead.
"Three Apples," he said to me with a smile. I looked at him with a blank look on my face, knowing better than to question him. Since he was over 400 years old and looked barely 60, I trusted him with everything he ever told me. "Seek the Three Apples," he continued, "and your Path will truly begin." He then bowed before me and went into the dining room. I stood there in silence as I felt the warmth from his hand still on my forehead. I then nodded to the air and walked into the dining room. For three months, the three apples remained on my mind as I continued with my daily duties. In all of my time studying the Forgotten Teas, I felt as though my Path was clear to me. I was wrong. Every time I saw a new face enter the Temple, I wondered if they had anything to do with three apples. Every time I went into the city for errands, I searched for three apples laying on the road, or in a shop, or even at homes I visited for special requests. Then, on a rainy morning, a woman walked into the Temple. She came alone and wore clothing befitting that of a lost soul. I paid no attention to her except to give her the standard greeting, only to stop in amazement. She noticed me staring at her and walked over to me.
"Greetings," she said with a grin, "why did I shock you so?" I quickly closed my mouth and tried to regain some form of composure.
"Your necklace," I whispered. "Where did you get it?" She looked down at her necklace - three silver apple charms strung on a thick black string hung from her neck - then looked at me again.
"I received it as a gift from a friend now long dead. He said it was the way to my Door being opened." She grinned again. "Perhaps you could tell me?" I reached out to touch the necklace and immediately felt a strong current of power from it and her. I bowed low.
"My name is Wasure," I said with a trembling voice as I caressed her cheek. "I am Blessed."

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Darker Wonderland

I found a copy of The Floating World in a used bookstore here in Memphis. Being a lover of Japanese culture, I figured that it would be an interesting read. I was wrong. The Floating World by Cynthia Gralla is an excellent read, one that I would like to read repeatedly. This book is lush and sensual, allowing the reader to dive into a darker Wonderland with hopes of never returning home.

Liza, a student at an Ivy League university, leaves it all behind to travel to Japan after being entranced by the world of ankoku butoh, meaning the dance of utter darkness. She sees a different world and longs to become a part of it. Her life in Japan soon consists of dancing butoh, starving herself, taking in new lovers while she taunts her former lover back home, and meeting and befriending a strange woman who leads the way. Maboroshi, a woman who dwells in this Wonderland, lives a life of decadence, extremes, and never ending pleasures. She and her group of women dressed as maiko (apprentice geisha) wreak havoc in the streets of Tokyo with perfume scented kimonos, daggers, and distorted visions. They lure Liza into their world and it is here that she evolves and becomes something stranger and deeper than she could ever imagine. The Floating World is a novel of a woman's attempt to discover her hidden side, the one she knew possibly existed yet never met it until now. Reading this book was like having a delicious erotic dream.

When I was halfway through the novel, I knew I had to reach out to the author. I had to let her know just how much I adored her book and that I had to create a tea blend for it - The Dance of Maboroshi tea blend will be coming out in two months - be on the lookout for it!

I fell in love with Gralla's writing - she makes you feel everything you read. You want to see the horrific because it pleases you so. A light brush of silk across the face as you are blindfolded, your heart beating fast because you are in someone else's hands. You desire more and you know that you'll get it, yet be warned. The darkness never leaves this Wonderland, this modern ukiyo. It will crawl across your skin like the sushi placed on the naked woman in the more expensive restaurants. You take your chopsticks and delicately pluck the darkness from the woman's body and eat it, feeling the slight warmth from the skin envelop around your morsel. Gralla gives us morsels to savour just like Liza and we feel full from it. We feel lighter than air and stronger than ever because we have tasted true desire. I could go on and on but I'll just end this review with - Buy The Book.

Arigato, Cynthia-san!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Harney and Sons Organic Bangkok - Tea Review

I may have found a new Spring/Summer favourite.

Harney and Sons Tea Company has done it again with Organic Bangkok Tea Blend. This green tea is quite the refreshing blend, as you enjoy the tastes of ginger, coconut, and vanilla along with the green tea. The smell of the tea is quite grassy and fresh, making me burn my mouth in the process because I didn't want to wait for it to cool down.

The overall experience of this tea is exotic, delicious, and for me, simple. Although the tea smelled grassy and fresh, the taste was very much a pleasing blend of green tea, coconut without being overpowering, and vanilla. I tasted only the barest hint of ginger at the very end of the sip - that surprised me, as ginger tends to be strong and sometimes bitter at times depending on how much is used. Yet with every sip, the flavours came alive for me while the mouthfeel was wet and satisfying. The instant I took a sip, I felt as though I was in another land, enjoying a Spring day while people watching in a cafe. This is a tea for when you are on vacation - adds to the overall excitement of being somewhere else! This tea is a good "comfort the soul" tea blend as well and I would love to try it iced. I didn't need any sugar or sweetener for this tea; however, I did eat some mango sorbet before sipping the tea (works well - try it if you can!) and that flavour enhanced the tea. This tea came in my Murder on the Orient Express tea order as a free sample and I'm glad I had a chance to try it. I will definitely be ordering this tea very soon.

Much thanks to Harney and Sons!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express - New Tea Review

Murder on the Orient Express is one of my favourite films and books - someone has died on a snowbound luxury train, and it's up to Hercule Poirot to solve the murder! When I learned that Kenneth Branagh would be directing an all new version of the classic film, I knew I had to watch it. However, when I learned that Harney and Sons Tea Company made a blend for the film/book, I really knew that I had to have it. I decided to enjoy a cup of the tea while watching the film and the experience was more than I bargained for.

Let me start by saying that I truly enjoyed the film. While the first film will always be my favourite and the book is a lovely piece of work, the Kenneth Branagh version is worth watching. An all star cast against a luscious and colourful backdrop with a heinous murder underneath it all - go rent the film!

Now - on to the tea!

The Murder on the Orient Express tea blend is a decadent mixture of black tea, oolong tea, jasmine tea, and bergamot oil. When you open the tea tin, the first thing you smell is the bergamot - a winner in my book. However, when the tea is prepared, the levels of the flavours change. First sip was quite smoky - a nice surprise to the tea. When I let it cool down somewhat, the smoky flavour remained yet now with a bergamot/jasmine end. The mouthfeel was wet and longing for a another sip. As the tea continued to cool down, the mouthfeel increased as wet and now soft. The best way to describe drinking this tea is: getting on a train with adventure in mind, wearing all black clothes, packed with books and a trusty camera, a feeling of decadence and longing to see the world. All of that in one cup.

This tea is perfect for all day but I think I'll be enjoying this tea on the weekends or in the evening, preferably while watching a foreign film or enjoying a really good book. This tea blend should be savoured little by little - no slurping it down.

Much thanks to Harney and Sons for creating such a delightful tea!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I love it here.

An eternal sense of bliss. Nothing to do but just breathe. The clouds crawl across the sky. My eyes barely move to watch them. There are others near me. They feel the same as I. One woman never moves her head as she rests against a tree. An older man lifts a flower to his face as he lays in the grass. He eats the flower then lets his hand drop to his side to locate another one. Three children dressed in white breathe in unison. I raise my arms to the clouds and watch them move back and forth. So slender. I can see my bones protruding under my skin. When was the last time I ate? Ah, another cloud.

I remember one time when my world was filled with noise. Rushing to get out of bed, rushing to get to work, rushing to get home to my husband, rushing through uninspired sex, sleep for three hours then do it all over again. One rainy day, a man with a dented tea pot stood at my door. He said he could slow me down. At first, I thought he was insane until he gave me a cup of his tea. One sip and I felt my eyelids grow heavy as the man became a blur. I blinked ever so slowly and soon found myself in a vast valley. I saw people of every race, gender, and age either laying on the grass, leaning against trees, or just walking around. I then heard the voice of the man telling us all to breathe. I slowed down. I took a deep breath then fell on the extremely soft grass. I slowed down. I'm still slowing down.

I see the man every so often. He calls us his friends.

Sometimes . . . I see . . . someone suddenly jump . . . .up and look around . . . .in fright. . . . as though . . . . . . . they don't know why they are here. . . . . . . . . . . they try to . . . . . . . . . . run . . . . . . . . . . . . and the ground holds them . . . . . . . . . . . . . fast. . . . . . . . . . soon they . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . return to just breathing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I raise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . my . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arms . . . . . . . . . . . . to the . . . . . . . . . . clouds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . when did . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I last . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . eat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(time for tea, my friends)

(breathe just breathe)

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . breathe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Condemnation of the Soul

I stand before you a condemned man. This rope around my neck will soon end my life, thanks to you out there. Scoff at me all you want but I speak the truth. Each and every one of you are to blame for this. You claim that I committed such an atrocious act, yet I know my innocence. I would never do what you claimed I did. Rachelle was my life, my love. I wanted to grow old with her. To kill the one thing that brings me joy . . .I'm sorry, what used to bring me joy. You know how much I loved her.

Yell at me all you want but I didn't kill her! Never in a million years!

Are you through screaming at me? In fact, I should be the one screaming at you. Yes. Look at you, so smug, so blissfully unaware. I may die an innocent man but I am still condemned thanks to my beliefs. You have no idea what you're a part of now. Remember when your lives were as fulfilling as the slop you gave the pigs? Remember those days? We were all poor yet we were content. And then . . . She arrived. Dressed in a simple dress, she appealed to your sense of wanting something more and gave it to you. No more wishing for a decent bed to sleep in, no more hidden fears, no more loss of coin. She revealed her true nature as She erased your faults and gave your perfection. You took it willingly. She saved you in exchange for unwavering loyalty, of which you were all too happy to give. Tell me: when was the last time any of you left this town? When was the last time you desired to walk the forests to search for the delicious red apples? When was the last time you did anything? I refused to give in so easily and She knew it. At first, She offered me lands in other worlds, then a chance for unlimited wealth. I continued to refuse. Then, that bitch of a goddess turned my love against me. I thought that Rachelle would soon see reason yet that never happened. And yet, I still loved her. I knew she would come around soon enough. Then oh then She showed Her true nature. She . . .drained my Rachelle's life right before my eyes. That goddess you claim to love so much, SHE killed my love!

I have nothing more to say to you people.

You there, take your mask off and get this over with. I know they can't wait to see the life fade from my eyes. I just hope that Rachelle's soul is cleansed through Death. I can only hope for the same with me.

Make it quick. Do it now.